(Citation: HC Deb, 6 December 2011, c24WH; available from: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm111206/halltext/111206h0001.htm#11120636000238)
NB. The BBC has broadcast this debate on its Democracy Live (although there may be access issues for non-UK viewers): http://bbc.in/uAE4sx
Sport and Youth Crime
Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): ... Today’s debate on the effects of sport on youth crime falls, in some ways, in the shadow of last summer’s riots ... This debate is set against a longer-term concern about the rising problem of disengaged youth, which has disturbed Governments of all persuasions for decades, and a belief by many in the sporting community that sport can and does play a positive role in re-engaging young people and refocusing their lives.
Nelson Mandela has said:
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire… It speaks to youth in a language they understand. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down social barriers”,and I want to use this debate not just to say that sport is good for its own sake, although many people believe that numerous benefits come with it. Studies of the benefits of youth participation in sport suggest that sport in and of itself is not enough to refocus or turn around the lives of disadvantaged young people and that what is required is a structured programme of support alongside the sporting activities. It is not simply a case of putting on ad hoc sporting events or creating new sporting facilities, but about how programmes are managed.
This is not simply a way of saying that Government intervention is necessarily a bad thing, or that Government agencies and public bodies are unable to deliver programmes that successfully intervene in young people’s lives. Support, including financial support, from the Government and their agencies is incredibly important to the success of such projects, but a good deal of new evidence suggests that sporting organisations and brands that have credibility in the eyes and lives of young people are often more successful in achieving the breakthrough that we all seek.
There has been a debate among people with an interest in sporting interventions in the lives of young people. People instinctively feel that such interventions are the right thing to do, and they have anecdotal evidence that they make a positive difference, but if there is any criticism, it is that there is perhaps a lack of robust data about exactly how they reduce criminal behaviour. I want to highlight some case studies that show the positive impact of such interventions on reducing crime and on antisocial behaviour and in improving the general well-being and educational performance of young people. The studies, of necessity in some ways, focus on relatively small numbers of people in relatively small geographical areas, and I would like the Government to consider some broader research that would seek to demonstrate the value for money and the performance of sporting interventions with young people.
I want to look at four important areas that are of relevance to the debate: sporting programme interventions that help to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour; interventions that engage young offenders, both in young offenders institutions and after release; programmes for improving school attendance and attainment; and initiatives that help to rebuild young people’s self-worth.
We must consider costs; none of these programmes is delivered for free, although many are delivered with the support of the private and charitable sectors. We must also consider the costs of doing nothing, of maintaining the status quo. Based on 2010 figures, the National Audit Office has calculated that more than 200,000 criminal offences a year are committed by people aged between 10 and 17 at an annual cost to the country of up to £11 billion. It costs up to £100,000 a year to keep someone in a young offenders institution, and the number of 15 to 17-year-olds in prison has doubled over the past 10 years. During the five days of riots in August, 26% of the rioters were under 17, and 74% were under 24. There is not a male bias in the programmes and activities—they are open to boys and girls—but it is worth noting that 90% of the rioters were male.
First, on reducing crime and antisocial behaviour, one of the longest running and most successful projects is Kickz. It has been run by the premier league for five years, has involved contact with more than 50,000 young people across 113 projects in some of the UK’s most deprived areas and has been supported by 43 professional football clubs. Kickz targets 12 to 18-year-olds, and its projects are football-led but include other sports and programmes designed to encourage young people’s awareness of health issues. The schemes typically take place three nights a week throughout the year, which is important in that they are frequent and have a very fixed structure. Kickz and the Premier League believe that one in 10 of the young people who initially attend the programmes as participants go on to volunteer, delivering the programmes for other young people, and they say that 398 people have gained full-time employment in some of the professional football clubs that have run the projects.
A report published last year by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and New Philanthropy Capital, entitled “Teenage Kicks”, looked at a project run with Arsenal football club in Elthorne park in London and discovered that the investment in the project potentially created £7 of value for every £1 spent, with the savings coming from the reduced costs to the state of the reduction in criminal behaviour, with less police and court time needed to put people in detention. One participant said that he thought that 25% of the kids on the estate would be in jail without the programme, and he highlighted the nature of the problems that many young people face. He was someone who came home from school to find not a fridge full of food and people waiting for him, but nothing for him at all and an empty time in his day.
Returning to the study of the Elthorne park Kickz project delivered by Arsenal, it suggested that there had been a 66% reduction in youth crime within a one-mile radius of the project. Even taking into account other interventions—through community policing, for example —and after looking at national youth crime reduction trends for that period, the study’s authors thought it reasonable to suggest that at least 20% of that reduction was directly related to the project.
The Manchester United Foundation has delivered similar projects, with its star footballers working with youth workers and volunteers to deliver football-based recreational projects for young people in Manchester. Some of its research suggests a similar pattern of behaviour to that found in other research. It believes that in its Salford project there was a 28.4% reduction in antisocial behaviour during the session times when the foundation was working, and a 16.3% reduction in Trafford.
There are other smaller projects that in some ways work with people with more challenging needs, and I want to highlight—this has been highlighted in the Laureus report and by other people—the work of the Tottenham boxing academy. Members who know more about boxing than I do might take part in this debate, so I will not dwell too much on this. The project was designed for 14 to 16-year-olds. Physical impact sports—boxing and rugby—seem to be particularly effective when working with people from troubled backgrounds and certainly with those who have been involved criminal activity. There were 17 people on that project. Eight of them were known to have been offenders in the past, and based on normal intervention programmes, two thirds of those young people would normally be expected to reoffend within a year. However, in that instance, only two did. It is a small project, but it suggests that sporting projects help to re-engage people. They engage young people through a sport and then allow the youth workers delivering the project to engage with them about the other issues that they might have.
The project Hitz is delivered by the Rugby Football Union, the premiership rugby clubs and the police across 10 London boroughs, and has 750 participants. Again, the sessions are led by youth workers and run frequently, twice a week for 50 weeks of the year. In the Haggerston park area of Hackney, where the project was delivered, the fall in antisocial behaviour calls was calculated at 39% during the project.
In my area, Kent, the Charlton Athletic Community Trust has done excellent work with young people over a number of years. Certain projects that have sought to re-engage young people and refocus their lives have caused similar falls in antisocial behaviour, including a fall of 35% in Aylesham and 59% in Buckland. The trust also does good work on alternative curriculum provision to re-engage young people with their studies, and I will come to that in a moment.
Good work can be done in the community to help direct young people away from the path of criminality, as my hon. Friend highlighted. There is also some evidence on work being done to engage young people in the prison environment, often at low cost, as many prisons and young offender institutions have good sporting facilities, and it is a question of bringing in the right people to engage young offenders. Those programmes use sport to help bridge the gap between life inside an institution to life outside it afterwards.
A project called 2nd Chance has worked in the Ashfield young offenders institution. Drawing on professional sports clubs around Bristol, such as Bristol Rovers and Bristol rugby club, it has worked with 400 offenders a year and is a low-cost provision. It has been calculated that, if just one offender with whom the programme works is kept out of prison, that will pay for the delivery of the entire programme for a year. When we consider that the current reoffending rate for young offenders in Ashfield is 76%, it seems a risk worth taking.
In conclusion, I ask the Government to consider the issues raised by my remarks and the case studies that I have mentioned. The Government should shift their priorities generally—they have already signalled a shift—so that they do not just increase participation in sport for good but consider how targeted intervention by sporting projects can help change the lives of some of the most hard-to-reach young people. They should consider how to create a unified approach to delivery across Departments. The work touches on the role of the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Department for Education and the Department for Communities and Local Government, all of which have some interest in the delivery of such projects. A unified approach is needed, probably with a lead Minister to take responsibility for and an interest in how those projects are delivered.
To return to what I said at the beginning of the debate, a good starting point would be to build on the work that is being done by many sporting and charitable organisations, take up the research that they have done, complete a fuller study and analysis of the benefits and the rate of return from this type of intervention, and then consider the potential basis of further Government support via Government agencies, local government and the police—through crime prevention strategies—to make this a fuller programme for the country. The need to re-engage with young people is strong and evident, and the riots over the summer demonstrated that clearly to us all. Through the fog of this despair, there is evidence of some incredible and successful interventions that are turning around the lives of young people. We should draw from that and build for the future.
Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): ...
I am fortunate to have Cricket for Change based in my constituency. It does a lot of work on street cricket and engaging young people, both boys and girls, in it. Such is the success of its programmes that it has exported them to other countries around the world, such as Jamaica, Sri Lanka and South Africa, so it has taken the idea to challenging deprived areas and has bound people together. It has just finished a three-year programme targeting the 10 communities in London with the highest
Another local project is Community Inspirations, the importance of which is that it can provide wraparound for some young people who have fallen out of education. They may, for instance, be training locally at the Skills and Integrated Learning Centre—SILC—in plastering, tiling and other skills. There is often an issue about what they do during the school holidays. The typical activities of organisations such as Community Inspirations centre on sport. It often takes a group of young people who may never have stepped outside their postcode to another part of the country to meet other young people and play in competitions. It is having an important impact.
Charlotte Leslie (Bristol North West) (Con): ...I thank him and other hon. Members for illustrating so effectively the statistical basis we have to demonstrate why sport is so important in tackling youth crime.
In my short time this morning, I do not want to concentrate on anecdotes, because there are many, or the statistics and value-for-money figures, because they
I am president of my local boxing club, The National Smelting Co Amateur Boxing club, and chair of the all-party group on boxing. As with many sports, boxing is so important for many young people who have fallen out of all the normal authority measures. They have fallen out of school, because they do not see that it offers anything for them. They have fallen out of the council’s best attempts to engage them in its systems of social work, because they feel that they are dislocated from authority. For many young people, the boxing club is the only rival identity to other less savoury identities that are offered to them. One young boxer said to me:
“My life was a cul-de-sac of going into a gang. If I wanted an identity, security, protection, feeling I am something, there was only one option for me and that was to join a gang. My local boxing club provided an avenue off that cul-de-sac where I could find a family and identity.”
Sport begins to give young people a ladder to climb, from where they are now to where they think they want to be. Not everyone can be David Beckham. He is a very talented footballer. The narrative that society gives to young people is that David Beckham became David Beckham by just appearing on TV one day in a football kit, but David Beckham became David Beckham by putting in hours and hours and hours of training and hard work. The immense value of sports clubs—particularly boxing clubs for kids who will not engage with other forms of society, because they feel they are too much part of authority—is that they provide the first opportunity to learn the very important lesson that my old swimming coach, Eric Henderson, taught me—no pain, no gain. To achieve something, one has to put in effort now, be it doing maths homework because one wants to be rich, have a fast car and a very attractive wife, or be it putting in a bit of effort going for a run and a sports training session that one does not really want to do—because it is early in the morning, it is raining and one feels tired—but one does because one wants to achieve something in sporting life later on. That, of course, applies to school, sport and life. It applies to getting a job. It
Next year, we have the most iconic solution to that problem—we have the Olympic games. I beg Government—I will do everything I can to work with them—not to let the opportunity of an Olympic legacy go to waste. On the ground, people know that sport works. If we understand the basic psychology of kids and all human beings, it is very apparent why sport works. We urgently need statistics, and the statistics base around it, to justify expenditure we need to make. We need to put that at the heart of tackling the massive social problem that erupted this year. What better opportunity is there to do that than when our British Olympic champions stand up on those podiums with those medals that I have no doubt they will win, saying, “Not only is this a gold medal because I was fastest or jumped highest on the day, not only is this a gold medal to say I was the best, but this gold medal also means a lot to me because of all the work I put in to get there”? Not everyone can be an Olympic champion, but everyone has their own personal best that they can achieve. It would be a great message to have every British Olympian standing and inspiring our young people to achieve. We can only do that if they have the rungs on the bottom of the ladder in our communities at grass-roots sports level in our schools and in our amateur sports clubs.
Justin Tomlinson (North Swindon) (Con): ... I am passionate about the positive role that sport can play in our local communities. I support that positive role through encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle that improves behaviour, teamwork and enjoyment. Sport can channel young people’s energy and boost self-esteem. Sport can be a forum for enjoyment, friendship and personal fulfilment. Sport can reach and change young people by improving their life chances, increasing educational attainment and building life skills. Sport can achieve some of the social outcomes that will help transform our society, and sport can be used a tool to benefit disadvantaged young children.
We also need to encourage more coaches—a number of hon. Members have already touched on that—but also day-to-day volunteers. When I talk to sports clubs, their biggest challenge is to find someone to be the club secretary or treasurer, and someone to fill in all the complicated forms and to organise the fixtures. There is a real deficit of people to fill those roles. In a society, people who are not particularly sports-minded can still play a constructive role. I welcome the work of the Football Foundation with its funding; rather than only the traditional provision of a brand-new, shiny set of football kits for a variety of sports clubs, it is looking at the legacy and encouraging more coaches and volunteers, so that more people get an opportunity to benefit.
Charlotte Leslie: Does my hon. Friend agree that, if we are going to talk about the big society, for example, there are few areas where it is more prevalent than in sport?
Justin Tomlinson: I am passionate about the merits of the big society, and sport can be absolutely at the heart of it. We can all play a role, even if it is not the traditional one of leading on the front line in the sporting team.
School sports drove up participation in high-quality physical education for our young people from only 25% in 1997 to more than 90% in 2010. The school sport partnership, to which the hon. Member for North Swindon referred, was vital because it enabled the infrastructure that made participation possible to be put together, including the people who organised the games, provided the coaching and looked for the range of sports that young people want to take part in. When the Government foolhardily tried to dismantle that network, there was, rightly, an outcry. It is welcome that they have backed down to some degree, although many of us who still work with our local school sport co-ordinators are worried about the impact of those changes.
Nick Herbert: ... There has been no dispute about the value of sport in having a positive impact on behaviour. It teaches control, self-discipline and the importance of teamwork. It unites people and provides opportunities for people, wherever they come from. Sporting activity is of huge value in preventing offending. Where offending has taken place, sport can play an enormous part as an intervention to break the cycle that I described. We must be careful to ensure that it is not the only intervention. There may be other causes of offending behaviour that need to be addressed in parallel. Whether there are learning difficulties or various addictions, sport can be one of the means to help an offender, but other interventions may be equally important.
Nick Herbert: I am happy to recognise that; there is clearly a role for civil society, sport clubs and organisations, as well as for the Government and bodies that provide public funding. My hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe mentioned Kickz and Hitz as examples of programmes that are driven by national sporting organisations and have a real impact on the ground. StreetChance is an initiative that promotes cricket, and StreetGames works with national governing bodies to support athletics, table tennis, handball, gymnastics, badminton and rowing. Through the initiatives of such national sporting bodies, it is possible to reach out and offer young people the opportunity to engage in a multitude of sports.
In the remaining time available, I wish to pick up on some specific points raised by my hon. Friend. He was clear that he was not calling for a general increase in sporting participation, and that targeted intervention—rather than just dealing with crime—was the objective. I agree with him. He specifically called for robust data on such interventions, and for research to identify whether they provide value for money. That general call is welcomed by the Government. The whole thrust of our criminal justice reform programme is to move to a situation in which we are much clearer about the outcomes that programmes deliver. When resources are tight, it is particularly important to ensure that money is being well spent, and that is why we are increasingly moving towards payment by results in the delivery of criminal justice interventions, so that we can be certain that we are getting the outcomes we need.
In spite of the challenge of public spending, Government-funded programmes are continuing, specifically in relation to youth crime. The Positive
Although I accept my hon. Friend’s injunction about targeted interventions, it is important to ensure that school children have access to sporting facilities—my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon also raised that point—and that physical education is valued in schools. Physical education will continue to be compulsory for all pupils following the review of the national curriculum, and we are taking action to ensure that young people in local communities are not deprived of access to playing fields and sporting facilities.
As part of Sport England’s £135 million “Places, People, Play” legacy programme, the Minister for Sport and the Olympics, and Sport England, recently launched a protecting playing fields initiative—a £10 million fund to protect and improve sports fields across the country. The programme will fund projects that create, develop and improve playing fields for sporting and community use, and offer long-term protection of those sites for sport. Sport England will run five £2 million funding rounds over the next three years, investing between £20,000 and £50,000 in schemes such as buying new playing field land, improving the condition of pitches through drainage, or bringing disused sports fields back into use. That is important; the issue is not only about role models, access and funding schemes; we must also ensure that facilities are available both inside and outside schools.